Back in my Midlands days, the call for peace in ritual often ended with the words ‘for without peace, the voice of spirit cannot be heard.’ What does it mean to hear the voice of spirit? It’s a gloriously open phrase that will mean different things depending on your belief. You might believe there’s an all pervading spirit in reality and that you can tune into it. If you believe in deities, then the voice of spirit will be the voices of those deities. It could mean totems, or guides, ancestors, angels, higher self, divine self, or in an animistic sense, the voices of spirits.
You don’t have to believe in anything outside of science to explore the voice of spirit – you can simply work with your own spirit, your own wisdom, your best self or however you prefer to frame it.
To hear the voice of spirit, you need a quiet, open but not disciplined mind. If you’re deeply involved in a spiritual or meditative practice, then you may tune out or dismiss the wandering thoughts that are some kind of magic happening. If you’re trying too hard to get a big important message, the odds are you’ll only hear your own need reflected back to you.
To gather inspiration as I write this blog, I’m pausing every few lines to gaze out of the window at the snow falling. I can do the same with clouds, small birds in the trees. I can do this listening to the stream, or the wind. Anything that absorbs me gently, engages me lightly, takes me a little bit out of myself but not entirely out of myself. Dance and drumming and chanting can play the same role. Here but not entirely here. Calm enough not to be entirely caught up in my own thoughts, making space for something else.
As a bare minimum, if I do this, my head will clear of irrelevant, boring things and I will become able to think more broadly, or deeply or randomly about something, and what I think will have significance. It may be useful. It may be the phrases to pull a blog post together.
Given time, luck, and a sprinkling of mystery, and I will start hearing something I recognise as myself. More a deeper self than a higher self – it’s not got authority or purity, but it is the voice that comes from the heart of me. The voice of my essence. It’s the voice I need to find if I’m going to answer big life questions, make radical changes, plan for the future or deal with the baggage of the past. It’s the slow moving cud chewing part of me. It isn’t super-wise or always right, but it knows who I am right now, and where I am, and what I want.
Sometimes, there are other voices. Small, soft voices. They seldom say much at all. Voices of inspiration, or land, or elements, or dreams or owls or… I don’t really know. I’m fine with not knowing, I don’t feel it’s productive to interrogate them. I don’t hear them very often. They do not ask things of me, or give me information about how to succeed. They drop small, odd thoughts into the little pool of my mind and there are ripples, and I do with that what I can. And while what comes is not a demand or a request, if I take up those words and explore them, work with them, inhabit them, they always change me and take me forward. Forward in the sense that starfish move forward, I tend to feel.
I don’t hear words of power or authority. I don’t get big, important messages for other people. I get small pokes and nudges, like being tipped off to the whereabouts of a tiny fairy door that you have to scrabble in the leaf litter to even see properly, and will sit outside for weeks, years, confident that you can’t possibly be going to go through that… and then maybe one day, some other insight will come along and the door will no longer seem so tiny, and off you go…